“…BARE RUINED CHOIRS…” Kids, you may know how much of an impression SEVEN TYPES OF AMBIGUITY made on me when I was young. Here is a famous example of Empson’s criticism:
“To take a famous example, there is no pun, double syntax, or dubiety of feeling in
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang,
but the comparison holds for many reasons; because ruined monastery choirs are places in which to sing, because they involve sitting in a row, because they are made of wood, are carved into knots and so forth, because they used to be surrounded by a sheltering building crystallised out of the likeness of a forest, and coloured with stained glass and painting like flowers and leaves, because they are now abandoned by all but the grey walls coloured like the skies of winter, because the cold and narcissistic charm suggested by choir-boys suits well with Shakespeare’s feeling for the object of the Sonnets, and for various sociological and historical reasons (the protestant destruction of monasteries; fear of puritanism), which it would be hard now to trace out in their proportions….”
I found this quotation at this website devoted to Shakespeare’s sonnets, which has very good explications of each of the sonnets. Here is Sonnet 73 from that site:
1. That time of year thou mayst in me behold
2. When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
3. Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
4. Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
5. In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
6. As after sunset fadeth in the west;
7. Which by and by black night doth take away,
8. Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
9. In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
10. That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
11. As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
12. Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
13. This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
14. To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.